The engine is a true testament...
The engine is a true testament to power-13.0:1 compression ratio, magnesium intake, twin correct Holley carburetors, and a bumpstick with lobes big enough to skate board off of.
Since Larry was a Chrysler-supported driver, Maxwell told him that the direction for 1970 was the new Pro-Stock class. To create new car appearances, Maxwell had all the necessary parts sent to Larry, who along with bodyman Al Voss, cut the rear off the body and turned it into a '70 model. With a Weiand intake manifold and Holley 4500 carburetors on special spacers, early '70 match races found the Dart running 140 mph with e.t.'s of 9.80s to 9.90s. Larry took the Dart to the '70 Super Stock Magazine Nationals at York U.S. 30, where he beat Ronnie Sox in Pro-Stock class eliminations.
In mid-November 1970, Larry sold the car to his friend Larry Pontnack in Oregon, Illinois, to finance the Pro-Stock, Hemi-powered Demon he was building at Chrysler's direction. Dave Koffel was now in charge of Chrysler's drag racing program and wanted to put full efforts into Pro-Stock with the latest products. Along with the Demon came a new deal with travel money, a truck, and hauler for the team. During the '71 season, Griffith shared driving duties with Pontnack in the Dart, and in 1971, it again won the UDRA Championship.
The Dart was retired in 1972. Also in 1972, Larry sold the Demon. At the same time, he and Pontnack converted the Dart back to its '68 appearance and Super Stock configuration, adding a distinctive red, white, and blue paint job. For the first time, some physical changes were made to the Dart- the wheelwells were opened up and the rear springs updated. Pontnack sold the Dart to Gil Kirk and Roger Townsend of The Rod Shop in 1974, and neither saw the car again until Griffith spotted it at K.C. Spurlock's Gambler Racing in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1993.
The introduction of the '68 Hemi A-Body Dart and Barracuda was not lost on young Joe Hilger. While still living on a farm near Wichita, Kansas, Joe wrote to Chrysler Corporation in 1964 asking for information on the new 426 Hemi engines that he and his dad had read about in an issue of Hot Rod magazine. Then, when the '68 Hemi Darts and Barracudas hit the dragstrips, Joe decided there was something happening, and he wanted to be a part of it. Already having a deep respect for the early Hemi, as well as the Top Fuel and Funny cars, there was something about the 426 Hemi Darts that made him think, I have to own one someday.
As things go in life, he had to wait. Between getting a degree in Automotive Technology at Pittsburg State University (then Kansas State College) and going to work, his need for a Hemi car was put on hold. After college, his deep respect for the technology coming out of Chrysler helped him decide to go to work for the company in 1972. Still following his love of drag racing, he worked in the field offices at Chrysler for a number of years. In 1984, he became Director of Mopar Parts Marketing. In addition to the Mopar Parts brand, Joe was responsible for Direct Connection where Brian Schram, Larry Shepherd, Larry Henry, and other greats in the business reported to him. Budgets were super tight, yet somehow they continued to grow.
Then one day in a budget meeting, he was ordered to close Direct Connection. Rather than close this legendary department down, he convinced management to keep the performance group alive and rebranded it as Mopar Performance. Not only were they able to save the department and pull it closer to Mopar, they were also able to use it as the halo for much of Mopar's marketing efforts and bring some life to the brand. Cars, parts, performance, and brand image were all linked together, and Joe helped bring more of the drag racing sponsorship from Dodge to Mopar. Many of those early efforts helped to shape today's Mopar racing programs. Joe capped these actions as then-Director of Mopar Sales and Marketing with the 1992 trademark registration of the name "Hemi." In addition, it was his encouragement and support that led to the subsequent retooling and release of the new Hemi blocks.
Fast forward to June 2002, when Joe, now vice president of Global Service at Chrysler, found a '68 Hemi Dart for sale. The owner, Charles Provance, had purchased the car in disassembled condition through an ad in Hemming's Motors News in 1998. Charles had restored and repainted the Dart gloss black as it was when featured in a December '99 Mopar Muscle article. Joe finally had the Hemi Dart he had wanted since 1968, and he was going to enjoy it.
Although the previous owner told Joe that this was Larry Griffith's championship winning Hemi Dart, Joe had no idea at the time how to connect with the original owner. By chance, while attending a dealer council meeting in Detroit, Joe mentioned to Ron McDaniel that he just bought Larry Griffith's Hemi Dart. Ron passed the information to Marion Turpin, a dealer from Geneseo, Illinois, who was also attending the meeting. It turned out that Marion knew Griffith, so upon returning home, he contacted him, picked up some historical materials from the Dart's early days, and brought them to Joe at the next dealer meeting. From this connection, Joe was able to contact Griffith, and they have since become friends.
Joe retired from Chrysler in December 2005 and was soon thinking about restoring the Dart back to its '68 appearance. He contacted Griffith in 2006 and asked him if he would be interested in restoring his old Dart. Larry was excited about the unique opportunity, and the Dart was soon in his Port Byron, Illinois, shop. He found a local shop able to reproduce the original blue and silver colors with lace work and lettering from small color photos made in 1968. While the body was being prepared, he also went through the engine, transmission, and chassis, correcting years of incorrect modifications to make the Dart capable of running as it did in 1968.